The top 10 boutique retreats in Sri Lanka
Whether you choose to kick back at a luxurious beach resort, take a safari drive through Yala National Park or venture further on a multi-stop holiday, Sri Lanka is an exciting destination to explore. We’ve picked out our top 10 small retreats in Sri Lanka for a memorable boutique escape away from the crowds.
Grand architecture, relaxation and al-fresco dining, The Fortress Resort & Spa sits right on the beach near to the historic city of Galle – a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to colonial-style buildings and an impressive café culture. The resort reflects the city’s architecture, with its grand gates hiding charming gardens and shaded courtyards leading to the Ayurvedic spa. You can enjoy a meal overlooking the beach, try innovative Sri Lankan cuisine and sample the resort’s incredible cocktails during your stay. There are just 53 rooms here and you can opt for one with butler service and a private plunge pool in your room – the ocean views at sunset are beautiful while soaking in the water.
This is a blissful spot if you love watersports, as this rustic-luxe retreat has a great location for snorkelling, windsurfing, kayaking and diving – there are plenty of wrecks and reefs to dip under the waves for, including HMS Hermes. If you’re looking for a more laid-back stay, simply head to the underground spa for a Swedish style massage or spend an afternoon basking beneath the sun by the turquoise waters of Passikudah Bay.
Each of the 46 rooms here have striking ocean views, from its spacious studios to a two-storey villa with private beach access. There’s one restaurant with a great reputation for food and the chance to book private dining experiences, such as a romantic cabana for two. There’s also an all-inclusive option which includes afternoon tea treats.
Set in the Sri Lankan tea region of Ceylon, the five unique bungalows at Ceylon Tea Trails are bursting with charisma and culture. Find your lakeside bungalow amidst the glorious tea fields of the Bogawantalawa Valley and begin each morning with an authentic ‘bed tea’ served to you by your personal butler. You could spend a day learning all about the tea-making process from the Resident Tea Planter, followed by a scenic hiking trail or traditional high tea in the gardens.
Ceylon Tea Trails also has spa and swimming pool, alongside a tennis court and croquet lawn. Enjoy an authentic Sri Lankan breakfast and, after a relaxing day, feast on tea-infused dishes at the resort’s gourmet restaurant.
Chena Huts, Yala, is the possibly the most luxurious stay if you’re looking to go on safari in Sri Lanka. This boutique retreat is just 15 minutes away from the alluring Yala National Park, where you could spot wild elephants, leopards and crocodiles during a game drive with an expert naturalist, included in the price.
The 14 cabins are inspired by old tales of farming clearances, or ‘chenas’ as they are known, where farmers would sleep beside their crops at night. These exquisite huts are a little nod to this farming heritage, but are far more luxurious in style – each has a plunge pool and deep bathtub. Taste the local cuisine at Basses, the hotel’s cosy open-air restaurant; treat yourself to a massage at the small spa or wander along the deserted beach as the sun sets.
A secret jewel situated only 40 minutes outside the ancient town of Anuradhapura, the Ulagalla Resort is a beautifully-restored mansion promising a taste of Sri Lanka’s traditions, as well as privacy. The resort has a fantastic location, close enough to the ancient ruins but tucked away from the masses, offering a sense of peace and seclusion after a day spent exploring.
The 25 luxurious chalet-style villas are surrounded by a luscious backdrop of paddy fields, ponds and jungle. Enjoy a nature walk through the resort’s grounds and take a guided tour of the organic garden or head out and explore the ruins of Anuradhapura by bicycle – your villa comes with two bikes to give you the freedom to discover.
This is a sanctuary of relaxation and sophistication on the south coast, with its chic interiors, dramatic cliff-top location and 60-metre-long infinity pool – voted one of The 10 Best Infinity Pools in the World by Condé Nast Traveler. Admire the spectacular 270-degree coastal views as you sunbathe at the poolside or swim in the cooling water. In the evening, enjoy fresh fish cooked to your liking or melt-in-the-mouth steaks at restaurants Ocean Terrace and Ocean Grill Steakhouse & Grill. Film nights under the stars at The Moon Bar are a firm favourite at Cape Weligama.
The resort has the largest luxury villas on the island and we love the elegant design, steam room and butler service. You’ll get very used to your butler taking you around the resort in a golf buggy, planning experiences – even doing your washing before you return home.
On the less-visited east coast of Sri Lanka you’ll find the hidden gem, Anantaya Passikudah, located in Passikudah Bay. The hotel has distinctive Asian style and design, including a Balinese spa, and you can stroll through the grounds and pass by its beautiful bridges, large swimming pools or walk out towards the shallow waters of the bay. For dinner, sample a selection of Sri Lankan specialities at the resort’s two restaurants – the Seaboard deck has fantastic views over the beach and ocean. You could also dine at the signature seafood restaurant on locally-sourced fish flavoured with local spices the island is known for.
Set within a private nature reserve and bordered by beautiful lakes and paddy fields, the boutique Jetwing Vil Uyana offers a fusion of rural simplicity and fine indulgence. Close by, you could climb the iconic Sigiriya Rock Fortress or discover local wildlife on a night trail. You can also take some real time out with a naturopathy treatment at the resort spa. You can choose an overwater villa for the best lake views or gaze out over forest and paddy fields, keeping an eye out for monkeys and peacocks from your terrace.
Set between an almost deserted beach and serene forest 16 miles north of Trincomalee, Jungle Beach is entirely secluded, offering you solitude throughout your stay. This eco-friendly retreat was built to have little impact on the beautiful setting and you’ll find it’s very private here, so embrace the peaceful surroundings and opt for dinner in your cabin, in the gardens or on the beach.
Wander along the sand in the early morning sunlight, relax your body and mind with a soothing yoga session or take a diving trip and discover Sri Lanka’s underwater world. The resort isn’t far from Pigeon Island, which is fantastic for snorkelling and you may get a chance to see turtles, sharks and colourful fish. With just 49 rooms, this really is a boutique hideaway with the most friendly and fantastic service.
Fort Bazaar, Galle
As you stroll through Galle, you’ll be surrounded by plenty of historic buildings. However, there’s nothing quite as immersive as staying in one of the coastal city’s heritage buildings such as Fort Bazaar. This colonial-era hideaway, which was once a merchant’s mansion. Is a lovingly restored bolthole with heaps of character. The property is centred on a shaded courtyard where you can relax with a good book in the shade of flowering frangipani trees and it features just 18 rooms with calming tones that are slightly more Scandi that Sri Lankan.